This year, in anticipation of the holidays, I bought my first advent calendar! I always get one for my kids, but I have never thought to get one for myself until I happened to see a lotion and body wash calendar from the company that makes my favorite lotion. When the calendar arrived, I placed it in my bathroom so that each day I could use whatever was behind the door. Then, shortly before the first of December, as I was getting ready for the day, in the corner of my eye, I saw the lotions and body wash calendar, and I had this very impatient thought; “I should just open every box right now and enjoy each one of those gifts because what is the point of waiting?!” And then I remembered, the whole point of the calendar is to reward the act of patiently waiting!
Patience, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Delay, or waiting, for adults is difficult and for our children, it is one of the most difficult things they frequently experience; therefore, they can get angry or upset. However, like the saying, “If you give a child a fish, he eats for a day, but if you teach a child to fish, he eats for a lifetime,” patience is similar. When we teach children to wait, we teach them a way of life, one that brings peace, acceptance and better mental health.
One of the first ways we can teach patience is by modeling it. Thankfully we have many opportunities throughout our day to model patience because we spend so much of our time waiting! We wait in a line of cars for the light to turn green or in a line at the grocery store or a concert. We wait for the items we buy online to arrive, and we wait for things like meals to be cooked and toys to be played with. We also wait for visits to friends’ houses and vacations. How we wait, becomes a lesson for our children, so the question becomes, how patient are you?
If you are someone like me and have had the desire to open every window on an advent calendar, you may also be an impatient person. My first reaction to being in line or waiting is absolute irritation, but, as I have grown older and wiser, I have realized it never helps me or anyone around me to be irritated by waiting.
What I have found that helps me be patient is to pay attention to the thoughts I am having while I am waiting. My thoughts are usually what is making me impatient because I find my thoughts convincing me that waiting is keeping me from getting everything on my list done or that waiting is putting me behind or that the person in front of me is just too slow; it could be any number of disruptive thoughts. By paying attention to what I am thinking, I realize most of the thoughts are unfounded. I always get everything done and probably the person in front of me being too slow is a good reminder to slow down as well. By becoming present in the moment and aware of my thoughts, I am able to find peace at the moment and the impatience slips away. All of this is happening in my mind, but what my kids are witnessing is that we can wait without frustration or judgment.
When your child is showing impatience while waiting, talk about it by naming the feeling. By first identifying that they are showing impatience, they then have words for those feelings and that leads to their later being able to identify it on their own. Then affirm that waiting is difficult and offer ways that help make waiting easier, like singing a song, reading a book or playing word games.
We can also use big events as ways to teach our kids patience. Throughout the year, we all anticipate big events, but from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, there are more exciting communal events and celebrations than any other time throughout the year. This season of year then becomes a great time to not only talk about the virtue of patience but also to practice patience with our kids, and ourselves.
Calendars with windows that open daily or creating little family rituals like reading books or listening to music about what you are waiting for are great distractions, but this also becomes part of the joy of waiting. Allow the moments of waiting to be filled with fun so that kids learn that waiting is part of what makes the joy of receiving or moving in line so good!
In a world where information and results to almost anything are just a click away, our kids begin to think everything should be instant, but the reality is that most things are not instant. Teaching patience is a way to help our kids cope with all those things that are not instant. Being patient is something that will benefit our kids throughout their whole life because patience yields peace and acceptance; virtues that last more than a season!